by Eric Jude Cortes
I am an experienced public school teacher and I am a pariah. You may have seen me talked about on major 24-hour news networks. Your governor may claim that I am part of the privileged elite. Your mayor claims that I am the reason why your city is broke. Talking head after talking head claims that my pension, bargaining power, and job security should be stripped and I should be replaced with a lower-paid, easier-to-fire rookie. In spite of this, a recent international study shows that American teachers deserve more pay and more respect. As a dedicated teacher in a New York City high school, I couldn’t agree more.
In my line of duty, even before pay, what is sorely lacking is a level of respect. President Barack Obama declared that in South Korea, teachers are considered “nation builders.” I can only imagine how politicians would react if my colleagues and I started calling ourselves by that term. There is truth to the term, though. After all, my colleagues and I are responsible for a large degree of the literacy, acculturation, world view, and career skills of our charges. There is no way our country would thrive without experienced educators. In addition, personally, I am often not just a teacher, but an unofficial counselor, mentor, volunteer tutor, and yes, let’s be honest, sometimes an unofficial babysitter.
Teachers deserve higher pay. You may not hear this from politicians, but if you use the same logic that justifies paying Wall Street pencil pushers millions, you’d agree with me. The argument is, if you increase a profession’s salary, you’ll keep and attract the most qualified individual. Anti-union newsman John Stossel used this argument in a TV special about how capitalism works, arguing that it’s good to pay CEOs millions of dollars. The irony is that years later, Stossel aired a special declaring that school teachers are paid too much, and high pay doesn’t lead to more qualified teachers. This type of hypocrisy was humorously ridiculed by John Stewart in an episode of the Daily Show. Even if you listen to the anti-teacher attacks of the sappy “documentary” Waiting For Superman, the fact remains that the wealthy will always want public sector workers to be underpaid and overworked.
I could go on. There are some statistics and anecdotes that I can throw at you. I can mention that in Finland, a nation with one of the best educational systems in the world, teachers earn on average 13% less than other college graduates, as opposed to 40% less in the U.S. I’d love to regale you with stories of how much more respectful my foreign-born English language learners are than my mainstream US-born students. But it’s getting late. I have lessons to prepare, homework to grade, parents to call, papers that need to be marked, oh, and I have a family to take care of. This pariah needs a nap.
To learn more about Eric, randomly bump into him on the street and politely ask him some questions.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.